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Referees throw down the gauntlet

Match officials expected to preside on the Mascom Top 8 tournament threaten to boycott the games unless the Botswana Football Association (BFA)  agrees to increase their daily wages-inside sources have told WeekendSport.

The games are expected to commence this weekend with Township Rollers and Black Forest tie moved to November 30th, owing to the travel delays experienced by the national team.While the football association together with the games’ local organising committee are said to be in constant engagement regarding the matter, it is said the mother body is tempted to dump those match officials and promote others to assume new responsibilities. This thinking has already attracted backlash inside BFA boardrooms. It is said both parties must press forward and engage each other to solve their impending problems.

WeekendSport gathers that the past seasons, match officials were paid P1000 per Mascom game. It is further indicated that the referees now want 100% increment (which is P2000) as the Mascom Top 8 season begins. However, the association is of the view that at least 1.700 be the agreed figure. At the time of going to print, no exact figure was established but others accused BFA for adopting a hard-line stance in negotiations.

On Thursday, BFA had issued a directive to referees committee to fixture match officials for various games. BFA sources however say it is impossible for the association to increase wages as of now. They state that they have a running contract with referees committee which does not expire until next season.  “It is should be noted that we cannot make any increment because they (referees) demand what is not stipulated in the contract. Let the contract expires then we will take it from there,” a source said.

When reached for clarity, chairman of Referees Committee, Eatemetse Olopeng claimed ignorance on the matter saying he has not heard anything concrete. “If there is anything, I am yet to be formally informed, all I know there is contract that expires next year and it is still running,” he said.It is now for the umpteenth time that referees find themselves battling for their welfare with the association. Their relationship has deteriorated over the last two seasons.

The match officials once threatened to boycott the league games claiming that they are owed outstanding balances from the previous season. They also said the conditions imposed on them fell short to satisfy their welfare. It is understood that the league, last season, contemplated to alter some of their conditions of service and that apparently rubbed them the wrong way. Those in the thick of things said the league house was planning to allow match officials to book accommodations for themselves and even fuel their own transport when on duty particularly with games outside Gaborone.

 According to informants, the match officials are expected to submit receipts for reconciliation at the end of the trip. Informants say the thinking did go well with the match officials and at most, the previous procedures be adopted. During the past seasons, accommodations and travelling expenses were incurred by the premier league, a move that was believed to have endeared the referees on the heart of the past premier league Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Bennett Mamelodi.

However, the defendants of the match officials ‘past system’ admit that it was a welcome move but the expenses have weighed heavily on the back of the league. ‘‘ It was a good idea to book accommodations and rent cars for them, but it unfortunate that people are not aware that this has proven to be an expensive exercise for the league,’’ a premier league chairman disclosed. He further said, ‘‘you will not believe it when I say that at the close of the past season, match officials expenses were reaching the P1 million mark.’’

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